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2 weeks ago

4 tips for saving money on a vacation for Alabama families

My family and I love to travel, but we realize how expensive travel can be for some families. Luckily, Birmingham is equidistant from a lot of fabulous locations like the beach and the mountains.

We also have a great airport, and it’s not too far of a drive to Atlanta if we need access to something bigger. So, how does my family afford to travel so much? We keep it simple, really. I’ve got four great tips I want to share with you in hopes of encouraging you that you can go on a vacation without breaking the bank.

Think Locally
We have so many fantastic resources for “day” or “long weekend” trips. DeSoto Caverns near Fort Payne, Huntsville Space and Rocket Center, and the Civil Rights Memorial & Center in Montgomery are just a few places I thought of off the top of my head. When thinking about local travel, it’s important to think seasonally too. We have wonderful farms nearby, like Old Baker Farm, that host seasonal events, or you could take your family to see the Barons play baseball on an “away game” weekend. Short trips over a few hours or a long weekend help scratch the wanderlust itch without costing serious cash.

Bring a Friend (or Two)

One of my favorite ways to travel is with family or friends. Splitting costs with other group members allows everyone to have fun while spending less. When traveling with friends, a big bonus is having children who are similar ages that will entertain one another. If you bring the grandparents along, they can have a fun evening with the kids (or maybe even a low-key one) while you and your spouse enjoy some one-on-one time. Sometimes there’s a lot of truth in the saying, “the more the merrier”!

Eat In

I love going to the beach, but vacationing during peak season makes maximizing our budget trickier. Condos are usually more expensive than hotel rooms, but they come with great upgrades like a full kitchen and, usually, washers and dryers. Having a full kitchen means that some meals can be eaten in, which saves on the overall cost of the trip. Washing clothes before you pack up to head home also makes less work for Mom in the long run (winning)!

Plan Ahead

Last-minute trips can be fun and exhilarating, but they don’t leave much room for saving and planning. Some vacations require a little more forethought. Certain destinations, like the Disney Parks or Disney Cruise Lines, have apps or websites that allow you to determine the cost of your vacation before you book, and they break down the savings by weeks or months so you know exactly how much you need to set aside for your trip. Talk about convenience! Planning ahead is often a great way to start saving money on a family vacation.

These are just a few of my tried and true tips for maximizing our vacation fund, but I’m sure there are plenty of other great ones out there.

What are some of your best tips for saving money on a family vacation? 

(Courtesy Birmingham Moms Blog)

Sarah Gilliland lives in Birmingham, is the mom of fraternal twin girls, and is a contributing writer at Birmingham Moms Blog

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37 mins ago

Former news production building in Birmingham sells for $1.5 million

The former Birmingham News production building has been sold for $1.5 million.

Al.com reports the buyer is looking to transform the 97,000-square-foot building into a self-storage facility.

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The Birmingham Design Review Committee approved the concept in February.

“As a Birmingham native we are excited to be a part of the continued revitalization of downtown Birmingham.

We look forward to providing first class service in this self-storage project for the business community and the growing residential population in the city center,” Brent Fields, one of the owners of News Properties LCC, said in a statement.

The former news production building was built in 1982 on 1.60 acres.

Alabama Media Group moved the printing of the Birmingham News to Atlanta last year.

Eddie Greenhalgh, first vice president of investments, for Marcus & Millichap’s Birmingham office, says the conversion of the building to self-storage represents a wider revitalization of Birmingham’s downtown area.

Birchfield Penuel & Associates is the architect.

Christy Roddy and William Ledbetter of Cushman & Wakefield-EGS Commercial Real Estate represented the seller, Advance Local Media, the parent company of Alabama Media Group. Greenhalgh also represented the seller.

(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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Bill ‘Bubba’ Bussey receives heart stent, shares special moment with nurse

Bill “Bubba” Bussey, beloved radio co-host of the Birmingham-based and wildly popular “Rick and Bubba Show,” said his Friday morning procedure went well and was all smiles in an Instagram photo he shared after a successful heart stent placement.

“We are out! All good, now just a lot of recover time and being very very still. Your prayers have been heard and felt!!!” he wrote on Instagram.

Bussey is in his early fifties and was on his feet Friday, writing on Instagram that “Bubba seems to be feeling better,” sharing a playful moment with an “unnamed nurse” he helped with her “volley.”

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Early this morning, Bussey said in an Instagram post with the St. Vincent’s East location stamp that he shared a special moment with a retiring nurse:

“So many people to thank for the great care I got this weekend… but this lady ‘Miss Sandra’ was retiring after 30 plus years of nursing. I was her last patient, of her last shift!! She checked my pulse on the way out the door! Happy retirement Sandra! Thanks for letting me be a part of this special moment.”

From all of us at Yellowhammer News, get well soon, Bubba!

2 hours ago

Alabama college ending aquaculture program after 27 years

An Alabama college is citing declining enrollment for a decision to ends its aquaculture program after 27 years.

Gadsden State Community College says it will discontinue the courses next spring.

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School spokeswoman Jackie Edmondson tells The Gadsden Times the program was one of the few of its kind in the nation.

The program teaches students to care for aquatic life in natural and captive environments.

Enrollees work with fresh- and saltwater fish and plants in tanks and ponds.

But the program can’t support itself any longer because enrollment is down.

Statistics show 27 students have completed the program in the last five years, or slightly more than five per year.

The teacher, Hugh Hammer, says only one of the last 10 graduates is employed in the area.

(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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16 hours ago

In new book, Alabama’s Victoria Hallman reminisces about time as Hee Haw Honey

Victoria Hallman and Diana Goodman were in attorney Bruce Phillips’ office one day reminiscing – Goodman about her time dating Elvis Presley, Hallman about her relationship with Buck Owens, both about their time as Hee Haw Honeys on the long-running television variety show “Hee Haw.”

“We sat in his office and talked it up and started telling stories,” recalls Hallman, an Alabama native and longtime fixture on the Birmingham music scene before she headed to Hollywood. “Bruce said, ‘You two sound just like this show my wife watches, “Sex and the City,” except yours is true.’ We thought about it and decided we should write a book.”

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That was 2010, and this week, “Hollywood Lights, Nashville Nights: Two Hee Haw Honeys Dish Life, Love, Elvis, Buck & Good Times in the Kornfield” was published.

The book includes both women’s stories, both written by Hallman, who has done freelance writing for Flower magazine and her own blog.

“I wrote as Diana, and I wrote as Victoria,” Hallman says. “I called her every Monday night, and we did about an hour’s worth of conversation each time. The next day, I would sit down and write as Diana, using her words as much as possible.”

It’s almost two books in one, with sections labeled “Diana” and “Victoria.”

“I told Diana her life is so interesting, many of the Elvis fans will probably just skip over my part and go to her part, and my fans may skip to my parts,” Hallman says. “It was purposefully written to be like that.”

Hallman’s early years in Birmingham included stints with bands like the Ramblers, Bob Cain the Cain Breakers and the Bachelors. She was a big draw during the 1970s at the popular Bachelor’s Showboat on Morris Avenue in downtown Birmingham.

Eventually, Hallman went to Hollywood to work with Bob Hope, whom she met when she was an opening act for him at a Homecoming performance at the University of Alabama.

Hallman’s section of the new book begins with her meeting Owens, one of country’s biggest stars, while she was performing with Hope. She began performing on the road with Owens and his Buckaroos, and a relationship developed.

“There’s just a magic about creating music that’s … very intimate,” Hallman says of the romantic relationship developing. “There’s a creative process that ‘s very sexy. We were together for awhile. It wasn’t a secret.”

In 1979, Hallman joined the cast of “Hee Haw,” the TV series Owens had hosted for a decade with Roy Clark. The show featured some of country’s biggest stars performing their music, as well as comedy segments with the cast, including Minnie Pearl and young women known as the Hee Haw Honeys. Many of the comedy bits took place in the “Kornfield.”

The Hee Haw Honeys included Hallman, Goodman, Linda Thompson (who would marry Bruce Jenner), Gunilla Hutton, Barbi Benton, Misty Rowe and Lulu Roman, among others.

Hallman has fond memories of her time on “Hee Haw,” which lasted until 1990. In the book, she talks about working with guest stars such as Ed McMahon, Kathy Mattea, Naomi Judd, Ray Charles and others. In addition, she talks about the camaraderie among the Hee Haw Honeys.

“We’re still great pals,” she says. “Misty Rowe and Lulu and I and Barbie sometimes have been performing in a Hee Haw Honey reunion stage show. We stay in constant contact. We were members of a sisterhood that has stayed intact all these years.”

Although there was a downside to her long run as a Hee Haw Honey, Hallman wouldn’t trade it for anything.

“’Hee Haw Honey’ kind of eclipsed everything else, and it was hard to be taken as a serious actress or singer, but it was apparently the way my career was supposed to happen,” she says. “George Lindsey would tell you that happened with him and Goober, but he finally came to terms with it, and so have I. It’s great. I have to be glad of it.”

“Hollywood Lights, Nashville Nights,” which is available on Amazon, details Hallman’s first marriage to (and divorce from) Jim Halper. She has been married to Franklin Traver for 25 years, and they live in Nashville.

Hallman still has family in Alabama and has returned to Birmingham to perform from time to time, including at the final City Stages music festival and, in 2012, when she was inducted into the Birmingham Record Collectors Hall of Fame.

“No town has ever held my heart like Birmingham,” she says. “Any success I’ve had is because of Birmingham. The more I’m in Birmingham, the happier I am.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

18 hours ago

Alabama mom opens up about breastfeeding and her tearful first month of motherhood

I love being a mom! It is more wonderful than I could have ever dreamed, but my first month of motherhood is one that I will never forget. It’s hard to say this, but it was one of the hardest times of my life. I felt so alone, confused, and ashamed for feeling sad when I should’ve felt so happy. That’s why I’m sharing my story with you. You see, nothing about my story is really all that unique. I wasn’t alone in my struggle, but I just hadn’t heard it talked about before. So, here goes…

I felt as prepared as I could have been to have a baby. I knew it would be hard. There would be labor and delivery, followed by long sleepless nights, but I had a plan to get through those and expected it to mainly be cute squishy baby cuddles filled with sweet memories and picture-perfect moments. I really think for some people it is that way, but obviously that wasn’t my experience.

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My son, Graham, was born at Brookwood at 41 weeks after a long labor and weighed 8 pounds 8 ounces. He was taken to the NICU for low oxygen levels, where he remained for 5 days. Our NICU stay was actually a really good experience. Those amazing nurses gave me confidence in showing me how to breastfeed, bathe, and change my new baby boy. Graham was a happy baby in the NICU and because of his IV fluids, bottle feeds, and nursing sessions, he left weighing over nine pounds!

The nurses had him on a feeding schedule of every three hours. Once we got home, I started nursing him every two hours because he immediately seemed to be hungrier.

After a couple of days, my happy baby wasn’t quite as happy anymore. He started crying a lot. I started nursing him more often. After we had been home from the hospital for one week, he cried almost constantly. I knew that babies cried a lot, but was it normal for a baby to cry until he passed out from exhaustion?

Graham would nurse for only a minute or two on each side and then begin to scream again. All my efforts to help him continue to nurse longer only made him more and more frustrated. I suspected a low milk supply, so I started pumping after each feed. While I rocked screaming Graham in the bouncer with one foot, I pumped, and pumped, and pumped some more, but only to produce drops.

I did research, called nursing clinics, leagues, and hotlines. All responses were the same.

“You are a woman. You are a mom. You were made for this! Every woman can breastfeed if you try hard enough. Keep going! You are doing great!”

I took all the advice I was given. I ate certain foods to increase my supply and took recommended supplements. I started triple feeding and power pumping and despite all my efforts, I never produced more than a tablespoon of milk in a five-hour period.

Not only did Graham cry scream constantly, now I was crying too. Everyday. For the next 4 weeks.

My happy, chunky baby was not so happy and not so chunky anymore.

As I prayed that God would give me wisdom on how to take care of my child, I remembered a new mom I had met at church before Graham was born. She told me, “The first month was so much harder than I had thought it would be.” Remembering her comment, I messaged her on Facebook and in our conversation she recommended the Brookwood Breastfeeding support groups.

There are four support groups in Birmingham and I went the next day to the one closest to me. I walked into the church room where this support group met, and there were several moms sitting together nursing and talking. I met the Brookwood Lactation specialists who run the groups and they helped me get started. First, they weighed Graham to get a starting point. I was shocked to find out that at five weeks old, he weighed 8 pounds and 10 ounces. Despite nursing around the clock, he had lost 7 ounces in the last four weeks. (I have a feeling the 2 bottles of gripe water we went through were really the only thing keeping him from losing more during that time.)

After weighing him, the specialists examined our nursing routine. They were confident that his latch was good and that everything looked normal. After nursing one side they weighed him again and there was no change in weight. They let me know that wasn’t normal. I nursed the other side and we weighed the baby again. This time, the scale moved less than half an ounce.

The next few minutes are moments I will never forget. The head of the lactation team sat me down and gave me a sweet hug and said, “Honey, you are doing a great job, because your intuition was correct. This isn’t enough to sustain life for your son. We don’t tell people this often, but you need to supplement with formula. You are not a failure. It isn’t true what they say. Not every woman can breastfeed. I know that’s not fair, but it is true. You have been brave.”

I finally had answers for my child, and I felt as though a weight had been lifted from my shoulders. Although my baby was screaming through the store from hunger, I was embarrassed for a minute to be buying formula. I felt like a failure and that everyone was looking at me and thinking I was giving up right there in Target.

I took one look at my precious, helpless baby and pushed aside all my foolishness to make the best purchase I had ever made. I sat down and immediately fed my crying baby. And just like that, he stopped crying, he drank his bottle, and then he looked up at me and smiled for the first time. That moment melted my heart forever. The beautiful moment continued when he fell asleep in my arms, full, and fully content.

Everything changed! I was feeding my baby. Not the way I had planned or hoped, but he was fed and he was happy and so was I. And there was sleep! Sleep for everyone!

Since that time I’ve shared my experiences with other moms, and there have been many well-meaning people tell me all the things I should have done differently or how I should have pushed through longer. Maybe. I just let it all roll off my back because I have a happy, healthy, and smart little three-year-old boy. I truly feel that his life was saved by that sweet lactation nurse and the formula that was worth its weight in gold to me. I would gladly let my pride die over and over so my child could live. With each child I have I will attempt to nurse again, but in the end, fed is best for us.

If you are a struggling new mom reading this blog post, you are not alone! You are a good mommy. You were made for this, but caring for your baby may look just a little different than you had planned. Be flexible. Be patient. Forgive yourself when you need to, and move on.

A wise mom once told me, “Don’t measure your success as a mother by your first month of motherhood.”

Man, was she right!

(Courtesy Birmingham Moms Blog)

Rebekah McKee is a stay-at-home mother in Calera and a contributing writer at Birmingham Moms Blog